Meet Tim Morris, Fierke Lab, Department of Environmental and Forest Biology
In the summer of 2016, I was lucky to intern at MRG where I was exposed to the basics of conducting field experiments and hands-on research regarding invasive species. That experience helped shape my academic trajectory.
The work with invasive species lead me to join Dr. Kirsten Prior’s invasion ecology lab at Binghamton University. I later studied the spread of Allegheny mound ants as they traveled from their normal edge habitats into the campus nature preserve’s forest interior via human trail systems.
In graduate school, I sought out projects managing invasive insects. I began working with Dr. Melissa Fierke at SUNY ESF in Syracuse, studying the biological control of the invasive emerald ash borer (EAB). This beetle is native to Asia and was accidentally transported to North America in the 90s. EAB has since spread to 36 states, killing hundreds of millions of ash trees along the way.
Biological control involves identifying highly specialized “natural enemies” of an invasive pest that may include pathogens, parasites, predators, or parasitoids. Only those that won’t harm non-target species are considered for release. Three parasitoids–small parasitic insects who lay their eggs in/on a host–have been released in New York: Tetrastichus planipennisi, Spathius galinae, and Oobius agrili.
Over the past six years I’ve conducted research on the impact of these parasitoids and their spread throughout New York. Last summer brought me back to MRG to study the dispersal of two biocontrol agents from a release area ~25 km away. Both species were found at the Preserve, indicating they self-dispersed ~5 km / year. Hopefully, the presence of these biocontrol agents will protect regenerating ash.
I never expected to include MRG in my own research seven years after my internship, but I remain grateful for the Preserve’s continued support and contributions to many studies.